Archive for December, 2013

As archaeologist Alessandro d’Amore notes, there has been ‘another collapse at Pompeii [un altro crollo a Pompei]’; and there is ‘growing indignation [crescente indignazione]’ in the profession/the country that the technocratic/austerity administrations are allowing – and, ultimately, causing – this to happen. Putting cultural heritage, workers’ livelihoods and the profession’s sustainability at further risk, the current administration is now trying to consolidate a poor, insecure workforce in order to disguise the cultural workforce’s inadequate funding, staffing and activity.
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When I started Conflict Antiquities, I occasionally went “off-topic” and discussed Turkish state restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information, or deep state ultra-nationalist propaganda (including the pollution of the public domain with false information in order to trick other authorities into blocking visas for international work). Now, there is public evidence for secret anti-academic and un-academic action against research and teaching.
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Lorna Richardson (@lornarichardson) summarised the Malvern Gazette‘s news, ‘62% funding cut to archaeology service, increased use of volunteers to fill gaps [and Worcestershire County Council explicitly ‘wants to recruit a team of volunteers to make up for scrapping some paid positions‘]. When do we protest?
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The government is going to split up English Heritage (EH). The rump non-departmental public body, Historic England, will provide ‘impartial advice, expert research…, grants to support heritage at risk and co-ordinating delivery of The National Heritage Protection Plan’. While English Heritage’s (the National Heritage Collection’s 400/420/440) cultural heritage sites will remain in public ownership, the site management operation will become a charitable organisation.
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Ignoring its legal advice and contradicting its own policy, Croydon Borough Council auctioned off the Riesco Collection of Chinese antiquities in order to raise the money to refurbish the Fairfield Halls arts centre. They’d already sold off two lots of the originally-650-piece collection (180 in 1970 and 112 in 1984), while 39 had been stolen and another 89 couldn’t be accounted for. However, having suffered 31% cuts to their budget and awaiting another 10%, they felt they had no choice.

The unsurprisingly incompetent ‘cultural vandal[s]’ and ‘asset-strip[pers]’ estimated that they would raise £13m+, but managed to raise £8.1m. The Museums Association was forced to expel Croydon Council for its unethical behaviour, which has left the Museum of Croydon professionally isolated and financially vulnerable.

Funding is only going to get cut, so labour problems are only going to grow. In parallel, due to geographical inequity in cultural funding and the economy, the cultural as well as economic north-south divide (or south-east-elsewhere chasm) is only going to grow. Here’s the first of four examples in a run-down (or perhaps grind-down) of the latest bad news for the cultural heritage industry in the UK.
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Passing over my six months’ employment in the Netherlands in even more awkward, contractually-obliged silence, I took the night ferry back and washed up in Blighty on the 13th of December 2012.
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Passing over my four months’ employment in Turkey in awkward silence, I came back to the Village very much hoping and expecting to go back to Turkey immediately, but it didn’t happen.
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I became long-term unemployed today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. No, definitely yesterday. This series is not one I’ll be posting on Facebook or LinkedIn…
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Over on Conflict Antiquities, I’ve explained that I won’t publish work that I can’t afford to read. Dover1952 (who does Archaeology in Tennessee) is bewildered by the unaffordable academic publishing industry (and it is bewildering). So, here, I want to consider getting paid for academic work, and getting excluded from the sector by the obstacles to accessing knowledge and doing unpaid academic labour.
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